More people need to carry naloxone, a drug that could potentially save their life in the event of an opioid overdose, according to the surgeon general of the U.S. Public Health Service. Great idea, in theory, but the price of naloxone products continues to rise.
There are two FDA-approved products designed for delivering the drug. The Evzio naloxone auto-injector sold by Kaleo Inc. comes pre-filled with naloxone and includes instructions for anyone to inject it into the thigh of someone who may be overdosing. The Narcan naloxone nasal spray sold by Adapt Pharma is designed to be delivered into one nostril of someone who may be overdosing. Both products are designed to deliver naloxone, a drug that has been around for decades and can potentially reverse the symptoms of overdosing.
The price of naloxone has shot up dramatically in recent years. The Evzio auto-injector was first launched in 2014 for a list price of $575, but by 2017 the product was running about $4,500 per prescription. Supply and demand have certainly played a role in the rising price of the drug, as opioid overdoses kill tens of thousands of people every year.
Generic naloxone can cost between $20 and $40 per dose, while Narcan runs about $130 to $140 for a kit that includes two doses. Most insurance plans do cover naloxone products, however, and both Kaleo and Adapt Pharma offer product donation programs aimed at making the products more accessible to schools and community organizations. Assembly may be another limitation of existing naloxone products, as one product designer told MD+DI back in 2016.
According to Surgeon General Jerome Adams, knowing how to use these naloxone products and keeping them within reach could save a life. He urged anyone who currently takes high doses of opioids by prescription, misuses prescription opioids, uses illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, has a friend or family member with an opioid disorder, or regularly comes into contact with people at risk for an opioid overdose to carry naloxone.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse also offers this tool to help people find local naloxone programs that may offer the drug for free.
While carrying the opioid overdose drug is one way to address the opioid epidemic, the medical device industry has also been called on recently to develop new technologies for treating opioid withdraw symptoms, as well as providing device-based solutions for managing pain without the highly addictive drugs.